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Default Canceled Against Army Corps in Keystone Case

A Texas farmer fighting TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline, didn’t properly notify the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of his lawsuit seeking to overturn the pipeline’s environmental permits, a federal judge said in canceling a default against the agency.

While finding that the Army Corps failed to respond to Michael Bishop’s lawsuit within the required timeframe, which triggered a court clerk to enter a technical default against the agency last month, U.S. District Judge Ron Clark vacated the default today because he said the landowner also didn’t follow the rules.

Clark gave Bishop two weeks to serve the required copy of his lawsuit on the U.S. Attorney in Lufkin, the East Texas judicial district where the lawsuit is pending. Bishop originally served copies of his complaint only on the agency’s individual officers and on the Army Corps at its headquarters in Washington.

“I will re-file the petition, and I will re-serve the named defendants properly, which I thought I had done per the court’s written instructions,” Bishop, who is acting as his own attorney, said in an e-mail.

‘Illegal Permit’

“In the end, the court will rule in my favor, the Corps will revoke the existing illegal permit, and eventually, the line will be removed and properties of sovereign American landowners will be restored and justice fulfilled,” Bishop said.

Bishop has been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, which crosses his land near Nacogdoches, about 150 miles northeast of Houston, in three separate court challenges.

TransCanada isn’t a party to Bishop’s federal court case, in which he claims the Army Corps violated federal environmental laws by failing to hold public hearings before granting a project-wide permit to install the Keystone pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma.

In his state-court challenges, Bishop is arguing that TransCanada, as a foreign company intending to transport Canadian tar-sands crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, had no authority to utilize state eminent domain laws to seize his property.

Cross Border

Bishop is one of a handful of Texas landowners fighting TransCanada in court over the southern leg of its controversial pipeline, which connects Cushing, Oklahoma, and refineries near Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. To date, none of these challenges has succeeded in stopping the pipeline, which TransCanada said in a regulatory filing yesterday is scheduled to begin service in early January.

Construction hasn’t yet begun on Keystone’s northern leg, which is waiting for the Obama Administration to grant it permission to cross the Canadian border. Environmentalists opposing the Keystone XL claim development of Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits will hasten global warming. They also warn that potential leaks of the tar-like substance could irretrievably pollute groundwater in environmentally sensitive areas of the U.S.

The case is Bishop vs. Bostick, 9:13-cv-82, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Lufkin).

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Calkins in Houston at lcalkins@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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